Free Trade Good or Bad? Trump's Amazing Impact on Republicans and Democrats

The shift of Democrats towards supporting free trade, and Republicans the opposite is a sight to behold. Blame Trump.

Historically opposed to free trade, Democrats increasingly identify with values like openness to trade. Republicans have done the opposite as noted by Greg Ip in the Wall Street Journal.

Since the 1940s, Republicans have branded themselves the party free trade, while Democrats—especially rank and file officials and congressmen—have more often been the party of protection. Those labels need updating. Mr. Trump’s imposition of tariffs on allies and adversaries alike is accelerating a migration of Democratic voters toward free trade and Republicans away from it. Among elected legislators, the median Republican is still pro-free trade and the median Democrat a skeptic, but those lines, too, are shifting.

The divide is also cultural: Democrats increasingly identify with cosmopolitan values like openness to trade, immigration and culture. For some, Mr. Trump’s dislike of free trade only makes it more appealing.

Free trade has yet to convert the bulk of elected Democrats, especially those in traditional rust-belt regions. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), a longtime skeptic of free trade, has allied himself with Mr. Trump on tariffs and stopped a tougher version of Mr. Corker’s proposal from getting a vote. Conor Lamb wrested a Pittsburgh-area district away from Republicans in a special election in part by endorsing Mr. Trump’s steel tariffs.

And the party’s rising progressive left instinctively equates trade deals with giveaways to corporations and the rich. In 2016 Hillary Clinton recanted her support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ambitious 12-nation trade pact, under pressure from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist.

All this means that a Democratic-controlled Congress, traditionally hostile territory for free-trade legislation, may be friendlier now. Democrats may see countering tariffs and protecting trade pacts as politically useful not for its own sake but as a way of constraining Mr. Trump.

Ip Misses the Mark

Greg IP is my favorite WSJ writer. But I believe he misses the mark on this one. Just imagine, Bernie Sanders, a staunch opponent of Free Trade had won the election.

All of the republican writers and outlets that changed their tune to back their party would be attacking Sanders like mad.

There is some truth to Ip's analysis but I propose something far more basic is behind the shift.

People Can't Think

People cannot think on their own. They listen to Right-wing or Left-wing commentary bashing or loving the policies of the current president wants on a purely partisan basis.

That's what the lead-in image says to me.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

No. 1-20

Nothing is free, especially trade negotiated by lying, self-interest politicians.


I don't for a minute think that Republicans/Conservatives have shifted against free trade nor do I think that demanding 2% GDP for NATO and renegotiating trade treaties means republicans/conservatives are opposed to free trade. The former Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations gave away US jobs and gave preferential treatment on trade in exchange for maintaining US hegemony and leadership. All this Trump hullabaloo is nothing more than an attempt at rebalancing trade with the priority being given to US jobs and trade rather than US hegemony and leadership.


Not one person in neither China nor the EU benefits from paying more for the same thing. Just doesn't happen. Cheaper is always and everywhere better. For all things, all the time. Obtaining more for less, will never be bad. Not even in some alternate universe that my one day be discovered. Certainly not in China nor the EU.

Just like in the US, there are people there who benefits from having a goon army stick guns in the face of their countrymen, in order to force them to overpay for the shoddier, less efficiently produced, products made by the goon army's favored incompetents. Having goons rob others on your behalf, can be quite lucrative, after all.

For everyone not on the "most favored recipient of loot" list, higher prices are nothing but a negative, however. Even in the instant.

And over time, since by far most of the growth in an economy, is created at the leading edge; by coming up with new stuff, or new, more efficient processes for obtaining existing stuff; rather than by simply doing the same old commoditized task over and over again; increasing costs for the companies, industries and individuals operating at the leading edge, is a surefire way to kill off whatever little may still be left of golden goose inherited from back when freedom still meant something.

American companies systematically being forced to pay more for inputs than foreign competition, is a surefire way to ensure they will become/remain permanent underperformers. With all the negatives this entails, for what they can afford to pay in salaries/benefits.

In practice, a tarriff "protected" US will end up like Argentina, who was once the richest country in the world, but who, like most of Latin America at the time, fell for the "import substitution" nonsense peddled by pseudo-"economist" hacks and Trump like Caudillos; rather than like the Asian tigers who embraced openness and competition: They still have some industry, generally stuck in the 50s and 60s, but there is virtually no innovation. They have "jobs," being paid low wages to perform commodity work as part of processes where by far most of the value is added in less closed societies abroad. While the wealthy remain protected, since wealth does not have to be earned, but is rather a result of government licences to own and operate the outdated factories that are protected from more efficient competition, so they can sit back and enjoy overcharging their countrymen to their hearts content. While pretending to be "pillars of the community", "job creators", "business men", "visionaries," or whatever other nonsense soothes their incompetent, fragile egos at any given time. Just like their US counterparts in similarly protected "industries": Finance, real estate, law, insurance etc.


Free Trade is simply an inevitable and necessary facet of freedom. If people are free, they are, per definition, free to choose who to sell to and buy from. And marry. And screw. And hire and fire.

As soon as some goon army starts pointing guns at you, in order to force you to buy from, sell to, marry and hire their favorite lobbyists' friends and family, you are no longer free. And instead just a peon, existing for no other reason than being livestock for some tax feeders and their circle of privileged hangers on.


My zipcode "is taken advantage of" by the dollar store half a mile over. "We" should all force ourselves to pay more money for the goods they sell there. With the proceeds going to lobbyists, and to building bomb craters in random places inhabited by hobgoblins.